Why is Sweet Caroline sung at football and who sung it originally?

Sweet Caroline has become a favourite anthem among football fans

England's Lionesses cheering and holding up their Euros trophy in Wembley Stadium, while Sweet Caroline played in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It was the song used to celebrate the Lionesses' win at the Euros, but where has it come from and why did Sweet Caroline become England's football anthem?

It wasn't long ago that people were asking who are the Lionesses (opens in new tab), but now that the England women's team have conquered the Euro's, the whole country knows the names of Lucy Bronze, Beth Mead (opens in new tab), Chloe Kelly and the rest of the history-makers - and they'll soon make their mark as recipients of the Freedom of the City (opens in new tab), too.

The post-match celebrations at Wembley were electric, and there's one song that had everyone singing along. Sweet Caroline has become a staple of international football matches in recent years, but where did the tradition come from?

Why is Sweet Caroline sung at football?

Sweet Caroline solidified its place as England's football anthem during the 2020 Euros, but it had already been playing at football matches for a while. In 2017, Arsenal played the song after their FA Cup semi-final win, and in 2019 Aston Villa played it during the Championships.

However, the song is also used in sporting matches across the Atlantic, and has been since the 1990s. Legend has it that in 1997 it was played during a Boston Red Sox baseball game because an employee at the stadium had a newborn called Caroline. Since then, Sweet Caroline has been the unofficial anthem of the Red Sox, and after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, it was performed live live at one of the games.

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Elsewhere in the UK, Sweet Caroline has been adopted by the England cricket team, Tyson Fury and fans of the Northern Irish football team.

Now, the song is also firmly recognised as a football anthem for the England national teams. Following England's quarter-final win over Germany in the 2020 Euros, Wembley DJ Tony Parry said he decided to play Sweet Caroline instead of Fat Les' 1998 World Cup anthem Vindaloo. He told TalkSport (opens in new tab): "I was going to play Vindaloo, but went with my gut. Even the German fans were belting it out in the end. It's a song that all fans can enjoy."

The crowd went wild for it and, since then, the song has earned a permanent place on England fans' set list, alongside David Baddiel and Frank Skinner's Three Lions.

Women's Euros final 2022

Sweet Caroline was most recently used to celebrate the Lionesses historic win over Germany in the 2022 Euros final, ending England's 56-year wait for a major football trophy.

Chloe Kelly scored during extra time to seal the win for England - despite only recently recovering from an ACL injury - and the Lionesses' achievement has been hailed as a new beginning for the women's game.

Commentator Alex Scott, who retired from international football in 2017, said "In 2018 we were begging people to host in their stadiums a women's game for these Euros. So many people said no. I hope you're all looking at yourselves right now because you weren't brave enough to see the vision."

Sweet Caroline was at the forefront of the celebrations for the historic achievement. The song blasted through Wembley Stadium during the post-match celebrations, with Chloe Kelly ditching a live interview to join in the singing.

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And the England ladies didn't tire of singing the football anthem easily. They later gatecrashed head coach Sarina Wiegman's press conference, chanting the tune in a conga formation, with goalkeeper Mary Earps and defender Lucy Bronze dancing on top of the table.

Who sung Sweet Caroline originally?

American singer-songwriter Neil Diamond released Sweet Caroline in May 1969 as a single. The song peaked at number three in the U.S. charts, later reaching number eight in the UK in 1971. 

It's popularity is however long lasting, and following the 2020 Euros the song re-entered the UK singles charts over 50 years after its original release, landing at number 48 and later moving up to number 20.

During the 2020 tournament, Diamond got behind the English team, telling The Telegraph (opens in new tab) "What a thrill it was to hear everybody singing Sweet Caroline at Wembley. I hope you can do it again - here's to England."

Sweet Caroline song meaning

Neil Diamond wrote Sweet Caroline about John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, who was eleven years old when the song was released. He later performed the song at her 50th birthday party.

However, in 2014, Neil Diamond told Today (opens in new tab) that the song was also about his wife at the time, Marsha, but he used the name Caroline because he needed a three syllable name for the melody. He said that Caroline Kennedy gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing more to do with the inspiration for the song.

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Sweet Caroline lyrics

Where it began, I can't begin to knowing
But then I know it's growing strong
Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along

Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
But now I

Look at the night and it don't seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurting runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holding you

One, touching one
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would
Oh no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believe they never could
Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

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Ellie Hutchings
Junior Features Writer

Ellie joined Goodto as a Junior Features Writer in 2022 after finishing her Master’s in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. Previously, she completed successful work experience placements with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue and the Nottingham Post, and freelanced as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. In 2021, Ellie graduated from Cardiff University with a first-class degree in Journalism.